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First 5 Jaw-Dropping Architecture from around the World (Part 1)

“Architecture is the very mirror of life. You only have to cast your eyes on buildings to feel the presence of the past, the spirit of a place; they are the reflection of society”: I.M.Pei (multi-award winning Chinese-American architect)
“Architecture is the very mirror of life. You only have to cast your eyes on buildings to feel the presence of the past, the spirit of a place; they are the reflection of society”: I.M.Pei (multi-award winning Chinese-American architect)

IF YOU LOVE ARCHITECTURE, if you’re awed by the science of art, if you’re dumbstruck by the degree with which the human mind can extrapolate beyond accepted norms to articulate an interpretation of space…then, welcome to the world of design and architecture right here on Livingmsia.

Livingmsia is so enamoured by the art and science of building that we’re starting a whole section to admire buildings. And thus, we shall begin by gawking at 10 existing but nevertheless still very relevant and sometimes quirky works of art called architecture embellishing and sparking the four corners of our otherwise staid globe, thanks to inspired architects.

We Begin the Beguine with….

1 The Bullring, Birmingham, UK

According to its designers, The Bullring’s façade was inspired by a Paco Rabanne sequinned dress.
According to its designers, The Bullring’s façade was inspired by a Paco Rabanne sequinned dress.

Despite its reference to the violent sport, the Bullring is far from any association with animals.  The bovine

reference may be a throwback to the Middle Ages when the area in central Birmingham, England was a bustling marketplace. We presume cows were traded too along with other agricultural produce from those days of yore. Today, it is actually a major shopping spot filled with all the beautiful people who come to revel in the retail therapy it offers.

Another look at the high world of “sequined” glitz and glam.
Another look at the high world of “sequined” glitz and glam.

The commercial centre, built around 2003, was masterplanned and designed by Benoy ─ an award winning international firm of architects, masterplanners, interior architects and graphic designers working from design studios in the UK, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.  The company is primarily known for its global retail architecture.

The Bullring’s design was actually inspired by a Paco Rabanne sequinned dress. Perhaps that’s apt for what better reflection is there of a place for designer fashion than the glitz of a sexy dress? The Bullring houses 160 brands and retailers including Selfridges department stores, the fourth largest DebenhamsForever 21 and Hollister plus more than 40 restaurants and cafés to dine, wine and chill in after a hard day of shopping. The Bullring is one of the busiest shopping centres in the UK and attracts more than 36.5 million visitors a year and counting.

2 Cubic Houses Rotterdam, Netherlands

The cubes “upstairs” tilted at 54.7°, look like they are peering down at the courtyard very intently.
The cubes “upstairs” tilted at 54.7°, look like they are peering down at the courtyard very intently.

These Cubic Houses in Rotterdam and Helmond, Netherlands may or may not have been inspired by Rubik’s Cube. Only architect Piet Blom would know because he came up with the idea in the 1970s when asked by the city of Rotterdam to provide a housing solution on top of a pedestrian bridge.  He responded by using the cube idea to represent the concept of “living as an urban roof”.

Quaint living spaces no doubt although inside, there are lots of corners wasted through tiled walls and low roofs.
Quaint living spaces no doubt although inside, there are lots of corners wasted through tiled walls and low roofs.

Aside from the asymmetrical design, the cubic houses are meant to represent an abstract forest. According to Blom, the triangular top of each individual house is supposed to represent an abstract tree, which, when connected with its neighbour, becomes a sea of trees in a yellow, manufactured forest.

What it looks like from the street but do take a look at the video below for a walkthrough feel.
What it looks like from the street but do take a look at the video below for a walkthrough feel.

Hmmmm.

Structurally, the cubes sit tilted on a hexagonal pole. They are made up of concrete floors, concrete pillars and wooden framing. Completing the tilted design, the walls and windows are all angled at 54.7°, providing excellent views of the surrounding area. The only drawback – aside from claustrophobia is that despite a total area of 100sq m, the angled structure means only a quarter of that space is actually usable.

Not a very practical but they sure are eye-catching and we like the sense of humour applied.

Lets Walk Through the House that Piet Built:

3 Dancing Building, Prague, Czech Republic

Look closely, curvaceous “Ginger” is in the midst of movement as she embraces “Fred” in a quickstep. The building known as the Dancing House sits by the Vltava River, Prague and it was built between 1992 and 1996.
Look closely, curvaceous “Ginger” is in the midst of movement as she embraces “Fred” in a quickstep. The building known as the Dancing House sits by the Vltava River, Prague and it was built between 1992 and 1996.

The Dancing House or Dancing Building or Fred & Ginger is the nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building in downtown Prague, Czech Republic  on the Rašínovo nábřeží. It was designed by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić in co-operation with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry on a vacant riverfront plot (where the previous building had been destroyed during the Bombing of Prague in 1945). The building was redesigned in 1992 and completed in 1996.

Here’s a closeup of the “swinging couple”.
Here’s a closeup of the “swinging couple”.

The very non-traditional design was controversial at the time because the house stands out among the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau for which Prague is famous, and in the opinion of some, it does not accord well with these architectural styles. But then the Czech president, Václav Havel, who lived for decades next to the site, was a fan and he hoped the building would become a centre of cultural activity.

Architectural Style

The style is known as deconstructivist (“new-baroque” to the designers) architecture due to its unusual shape. The “dancing” shape is supported by 99 concrete panels, each a different shape and dimension. On the top of the building is a large twisted structure of metal nicknamed Medusa.

An even closer look at the windows. They are curved! This is quite an architectural feat considering it was built over 20 years ago.
An even closer look at the windows. They are curved! This is quite an architectural feat considering it was built over 20 years ago.

The general shape of the building is now featured on a gold 2,000 Czech koruna coin issued by the Czech National Bank. The coin completes a series called “Ten Centuries of Architecture”.

4 Grand Lisboa, Macao

You can’t say it isn’t kitschy enough. Trust Stanley Ho.
You can’t say it isn’t kitschy enough. Trust Stanley Ho.

Now there’s a gaudy building. Casino Lisboa is a hotel casino in Se, Macau, China. The casino is owned by the Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau (STDM), a Stanley Ho company. This three-storey complex was built in late 1960s. The original casino and the 12-storey round hotel tower were built in 1970 by architects Stanley Ho, Teddy YipYip Hon and Henry Fok. A 270-room extension was added in 1991 for a total of 927 rooms. In 2006, another extension, the Grand Lisboa, was built next to the current complex. Therefore, a total of 2,362 rooms are in place in Hotel Lisboa as of 2010. This expansion is being done partly in competition with the newly opened Wynn Macau, located right next to the original Casino Lisboa.

Underneath the flamboyance outside, it’s equally as noisy inside.
Underneath the flamboyance outside, it’s equally as noisy inside.

5 City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, Spain

The astounding City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, Spain.
The astounding City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, Spain.

When in Spain, be sure to visit the astounding City of Arts and Sciences, a whopping cultural city spanning a very rough estimate of 500,000sq m of space at least, on the former riverbed of the river Turia which was drained and rerouted.  Today, the old riverbed is the scene of a stunning sunken city-in-the-park called The City of Arts and Sciences which provides infotainment, cultural enrichment, sensorial learning and just plain old wholesome fun for all the family.

Another perspective of the structure. Bridges interconnect the multi-complex city.
Another perspective of the structure. Bridges interconnect the multi-complex city.

And don’t forget to marvel at the sight before you too ─ the City of Arts and Sciences is a series of stunning architecture that will blow you over. You’ll need a week or two at least to get through all that the multi complex has to offer.

Designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, the finished “city” was inaugurated on April 16, 1998 with the opening of the first building called L’Hemisfèric. The last great component of the City of Arts and Sciences, El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, was presented on October 9, 2005, Valencian Community Day.

The complex is made up of the following buildings, in order of their inauguration:

L Hemisférico, in the shape of an eye complete with pupil. It contains an IMAX Cinema, planetarium and laserium. It is befitting that it is shaped like an eye. Pic from Wikipedia
L Hemisférico, in the shape of an eye complete with pupil. It contains an IMAX Cinema, planetarium and laserium. It is befitting that it is shaped like an eye. Pic from Wikipedia
  • L’Hemisferic (1998) — is an IMAX Cinema, planetarium and laserium. The building is meant to resemble a giant eye, and has an approximate surface of 13,000 m².
  • El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe (2000) — an interactive museum of science that resembles the skeleton of a whale. It occupies around 40,000 m² on three floors.
  • L’Umbracle (2001) — an open structure enveloping a landscaped walk with plant species indigenous to Valencia (such as rockrose, lentisca, rosemary, lavender, honeysuckle, bougainvillea, palm tree). In the interior The Walk of the Sculptures, is an outdoor art gallery with sculptures by contemporary artists. The Umbracle is 320m long and 60m wide.
Day View and closeup of the magnanimity of the project.
Day View and closeup of the magnanimity of the project.
  • L’Oceanogràfic (2003) — is an open-air oceanographic park, designed by Félix Candela. It is the largest oceanographic aquarium in Europe with 110,000 square meters and 42 million liters of water. It was built in the shape of a water lily and is the work of architect Félix Candela. Each building represents different aquatic environments including the Mediterranean, Wetlands, Temperate and Tropical Seas, Oceans, the Antarctic, the Arctic, Islands and the Ted Sea. This aquarium is a home to over 500 different species including dolphins, belugas, sawfish, jellyfish, starfish, sea urchins, walruses, sea lions, seals, penguins, turtles, sharks,and rays. It also inhabits wetland bird species.
    A pullback shot to see the architecture as a whole.
    A pullback shot to see the architecture as a whole.
  • El Pont de l’Assut de l’Or (2008) — is a white cable-stayed bridge crossing the dry Turia riverbed, connecting the south side with Minorca Street, in between El Museu de les Ciències and L’Agora. The tower of the bridge at 125 meters high is the highest point in the city.
  • L’Àgora (2009) — is a covered plaza in which concerts and sporting events (such as the Valencia Open 500) are held. The Agora is a space designed to hold a variety of events such as concerts, performances, exhibitions, conventions, staging of congresses, and international sports meetings.
  • Torres de València — is the construction of three skyscrapers of 308, 266 and 220m. The project has been put on hold and the possibilities that it will be finished are seen by many as doubtful.And there you have it folks, the first 5 fascinating structures of form they call buildings that have withstood the test of time. More coming up in a jiffy in the Second 5 Jaw-Dropping Architecture from around the World (Part 2) but meanwhile, we leave you with a thought.

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